Appointing a project manager for each project has been identified as one of the six basic success factors to improve your ability to get new products to market quicker and cheaper.

In essence the project manager has the authority to run the project on a day to day basis and is responsible for ensuring project success within the tolerances set by the project sponsor.

Projects typically have to be delivered within certain time, cost and quality limits and within the tolerances set on scope, risk and benefits.

To simplify the huge range of information and guidelines for project managers I have created one simple model of core responsibilities. You will see that it combines PRINCE2 project guidelines with Adair’s Action Centred Leadership model, the PDCA cycle and vital leadership skills.

The 4 key responsibilities boil down to:

  1. Manage day to day tasks
  2. Manage information flows
  3. Conduct specific project tasks
  4. Lead the project team




  1. Manage the day to day tasks. These are represented by the Plan, Assign, Monitor, Control cycle. This is a version of Deming’s Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle.

The project manager plans the sequence of tasks to achieve the project objectives and the resources to achieve those plans. Plans in NPI projects typically exist at project, stage and task level and are produced at different times with different levels of scope and detail.

The project manager assigns some of the tasks to others; especially those requiring specialist knowledge e.g. design.

They then monitor the tasks to make sure they are on plan. If not then some form of corrective action plan is made in order to control the project. Continuing problems are escalated.

The control phase also includes the introduction of performance improvement, such as ways to improve cost or reduce lead time.

  1. Manage the information flows. The project manager needs to make the right information available at the right time to the right people, for them to make the right decisions. In our diagram, information flows are represented by the two way orange arrows.
  2. Conduct specific project management tasks. The project manager has the responsibility for; initiating the project, preparing for the gates and closing down the project. Useful guidelines on these tasks can be found in PRINCE2.
  3. Lead the project team. People are crucial to the success of a project; it will not succeed simply by having excellent strategies, guidelines, standards and rules. The project manager needs to balance the project, the team and the individual. Adair’s Action Centred Leadership model is a useful structure to help gain this balance.

To do it well the project manager needs the ability to:

  • Delegate to individuals and cross functional teams.
  • Motivate individuals and cross functional teams.
  • Manage people through periods of change and when assigning project tasks.
  • Adapt their leadership style to meet the needs of the team in a variety of situations.
  • Communicate effectively.

As you will realise there is a lot of detail behind each of these 4 key responsibilities, but hopefully these give you a balanced overview of the project managers’ role. Let me know if there are any other core responsibilities that you would include.

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